In an interview with Fox News Wednesday night, Senator Lindsey Graham hinted that he would oppose Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s virtually unchallenged hold on Senate GOP leadership if they could not forge a ‘working relationship’.
‘I’m not going to vote for anybody for leader of the Senate as a Republican unless they can prove to me that they can advocate an American (sic) First agenda and have a working relationship with President Trump,’ Graham told Fox News.
Immediately following this admission, he predicted a Trump win in the next presidential election.
‘It’s his nomination if he wants it, and I think he’ll get reelected in 2024.’
One of Trump’s closest allies in Congress, Graham was asked by host Sean Hannity about McConnell’s chances of retaining his Senate leadership position.
‘Well, elections are about the future. If you want to be a Republican leader in the House or the Senate, you have to have a working relationship with President Donald Trump,’ Graham said.
Graham said Trump is ‘the most consequential Republican since Ronald Reagan.’
Graham said that he ‘likes’ McConnell and credited him for helping pass key Trump administration agenda items like tax cuts and putting three new Supreme Court justices on the bench.
‘Here’s the question: Can Senator McConnell effectively work with the leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump?’ Graham asked.
‘I’m not going to vote for anybody that can’t have a working relationship with President Trump: To be a team, to come up with an America First agenda, to show the difference between us and liberal Democrats, prosecute the case for Trump policies.’
‘If you can’t do that, you will fail,’ Graham added.
After the violence at the Capitol, last January 6, Trump and McConnell’s relationship soured after years of working efficiently together.
With the Biden administration and McConnell’s work in raising the US debt limit and passing the landmark $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the rift got even worse.
The former president regularly lashes out at the longtime senator from Kentucky, who, unlike some of his caucus members, isn’t hesitant to call the ex-president out.
McConnell is often called a ‘broken old crow’, by Trump.
When the infrastructure bill was passed in November, Trump mocked McConnell by suggesting that he go see President Joe Biden sign the bill.
‘Based on the fact that the Old Crow convinced many Republican Senators to vote for the Bill, greatly jeopardizing their chance of winning re-election, and that he led the way, he should go to the signing and put up with the scorn from Great Republican Patriots that are already lambasting him.’
In a statement, McConnell said he was ‘proud’ to stand with 18 other GOP senators on Biden’s bill, stating it would be ‘extremely good’ for Kentucky.
Trump called McConnell a ‘loser’ this week after he agreed with South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds that the 2020 election was conducted fair. The comments got Rounds his own little tiff with Trump.
Last month, Trump told Fox News: ‘Mitch McConnell’s a disaster. The Republicans have to get a new leader.’
According to one report, Trump had made calls to allies in the Senate and other supporters in September to see if they, too, felt it was time for a change in leadership.
The senator does have admirers in the upper house, though. The Republican senator from Alabama, Tommy Tuberville, who Trump helped win his seat, said that McConnell was doing a “good job.”
There are those who are already lined up to take McConnell’s spot.
Senator John Thune’s decision to run for reelection results in a shuffle among three Republican candidates named John to succeed McConnell. McConnell’s deputy Thune, as well as John Cornyn, the former whip from Texas, are the two favorites to succeed him. John Barrasso is the No. 3 Senate Republican leader who Republicans believe has a good chance of assuming the whip job first as Cornyn and Thune vie for McConnell’s position.
McConnell announced Tuesday he will seek reelection as party leader after this fall’s midterm elections, no surprise considering his goal to surpass the late Sen. Mike Mansfield’s leadership longevity record. However, Thune’s desire for a fourth term has caused the Senate GOP to become anxious as to who will succeed McConnell since political trajectories can shift in an instant in the Senate.
Thune was torn over whether or not to run for re-election and had his decision complicated by Trump’s attacks against him for dismissing Trump’s attempts to challenge Biden’s victory. But Trump’s attacks stopped, and Thune continued to remain optimistic about his future. In a statement, Thune commented that the possibility of one day serving as Republican leader “put additional weight on the side of staying around, for sure.”
“Hopefully we get the majority back and at some point — nobody knows when exactly that might be in the future — there probably will be some opportunities. And I never rule anything out,” Thune told reporters Tuesday.
According to some Republicans, Thune has the best chance of becoming whip until he is term-limited out in 2025. While he once considered running for president, he has decided to stay in the Senate instead.
Cornyn, 69, also has a distinguished record in the Senate – as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during two elections, as whip during six years as well as a McConnell confidante. While Thune can be low-key, Cornyn has a more pugnacious style, which makes him desirable to some Republicans as a successor to McConnell.
It might be that if Trump runs again for president, the lustre of being the Senate GOP leader might dull a bit. Trump has laid off Thune even after he announced that he would seek reelection.